Friday, October 20, 2017

Technical Difficulties

Hey everyone! This week's vlog post is supposed to be live already, but the gremlins have gone into my internet connection again, so I'm not able to upload. I'm hoping to do so over the weekend.

Sigh.

Misha

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: The Inciting Incident

Continuing on my theme of plot-related need-to-knows for NaNoWriMo, I want to talk about the inciting incident today. What is it? And why is it so useful to know your story's inciting incident ahead of starting to write your NaNo Novel?



You know that line in book descriptions? "Everything changes when..."

The event that changes things for the character is the inciting incident. It's literally the event that "incites" the character to set the goal which carries the story.

And if the goal is your story's point, the inciting incident is then the catalyst that sparks off the story in earnest.

If you think about it from the reader's point of view, the story's goal doesn't exist until the inciting incident occurred. So the introduction has no direction; it's only an introduction. Direction only happens when the character says (directly or indirectly), "This is what I want to do." After that, the story is about whether or not that thing is achieved.

But it can't happen if there isn't some spark that makes the character set out on their journey in the first place.

For this reason, it's a good idea to have the inciting incident occur as soon as possible. Some people say within the first third of your story, but I personally think that's too long, unless your story has a slower pace. Others say you must start in medias res, and that the inciting incident has to happen in the first chapter. Which I say is too fast for most genres outside of mysteries (where the incident in question is someone dying or something being stolen) or a thriller. Personal experience says that most of my stories work best with a proper character intro, and the inciting incident occurring somewhere in the first fifth of a book. But that's because I prefer to emphasize my character arcs. Putting the inciting incident at around 10k words in (assuming I have a 50k book) gives me time to show the readers who the characters are before the inciting incident changes things, which I feel gives those changes more of an impact.

That said, I tend to personally leave it up to the story I'm writing, for the inciting incident to happen when it's ready to happen.

So why the spiel about where to put it, then?

Because a surprising amount of writers feel like their story is dragging half-way into the book and they can't tell why.

Often, the reason is that they've written half a novel's worth of words, but nothing's happened yet. So it's basically a half a novel of waffling around with no direction and no visible point. Because nothing happened to make the character decide to do something. And as such, nothing is done.

If you know what the inciting incident is supposed to be, you'll also know if it hasn't happened yet, and so you can make sure it does happen and soon enough to keep your story from lagging.

Do you pre-plan your inciting incidents? Do you prefer inciting incidents to happen right at the beginning, or at a later point in the story? 

Monday, October 16, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Your Story's Goal

This post is part of my ongoing-series about prepping for and surviving NaNoWriMo. Click here to find the rest of the series as it goes live.



Last week, I was talking about characterization and using a character's motivation to set the main story goal. This week, I want to go into this goal and its close buddy, the inciting incident.

For me, this order of doing things, of exploring the character before deciding on the goal, makes sense because I'm more character-driven. If you're plot-driven, you're probably going to want to decide on the story goal first and then create characters that will make the story of achieving said goal interesting. Both approaches work fine, especially if you pay attention not to sacrifice your character strength for your plot, or your plot's strength to preserve character.

But the point here is that, if you want a decent shot at finishing NaNoWriMo, your story needs a goal, and it's going to be incredibly helpful to know what that goal will be before you start.

But What Is This Goal I Speak Of? 

Let me just get this off my chest quickly: I'm not talking about those highly nebulous goals writers have for their stories, like "I want to teach children that it's okay to dream big." or "I want to write about homeless people." Nor will I go into why I don't (and probably won't ever) agree that such an approach is a good idea for genre writing. (I'm looking at you, Mark Twain, who stuffed up a perfectly good Arthurian time-travel tale with your incessant preaching.) Really. Don't get me started on that. 

Instead, I'm talking about the goal that forms the heart of your story itself. That thing that a character sets out to do, and the reason why readers keep turning pages to find out whether that thing comes about. 

In other words, the goal is the reason why a story should be read. A good example of a goal from books is Frodo's goal of destroying the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. 

Or it can be an unstated (at least in the story itself) goal of the characters falling in love in your standard romance. Or of a character needing to move on, such as in Under the Tuscan Sun. But it's worth noting that often these goals tend to come with another, stated goal, and often come secondary to that stated goal. In Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances moves into an old, nearly decrepit house in Tuscany, and somehow needs to overcome the language and culture barrier in order to fix it up.

So why is the goal so important to me, coming second to (or maybe even standing even with) only characterization? Because the story's goal is its entire point. And every other plot aspect to a story has the goal at its foundation. 

If you approach plot by structuring according to the three-act structure, or according to beats a la Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, the goal is still the lynch pin you're building it up around. For example, the dark night of the soul, that moment where all hope is lost and the character has to dig deeper than ever before in order to succeed... What does that hope center on? The hope that the main story goal will be achieved. And what must the character succeed at? Yep. The goal.

The inciting incident is the moment that acts as the catalyst of setting the goal and so kicks off the story after the character introduction. 

The conflict in the story is anything and everything that complicates or makes the goal impossible to achieve. 

The stakes of a story are the costs associated with failure to attain the goal

And back to the three-act structure: What's the climax of any story about? 90% of the time, it's going to be about the last big push to try and achieve that goal. The rest of the time, it's about a major decision about that goal, or a major failure to achieve the goal.

Even the themes and messages from your story will be rooted in either the goal itself, or in the discoveries that characters make as they go after the goal. 

In other words, the goal is everywhere and it's everything. And as soon as you have readers caring about the characters and their journey, the goal and the success or failure at achieving it forms the major question that drives the readers to keep reading. Will Frodo destroy the One Ring? Will Frances succeed in fixing the house and will she find happiness again? 

Depending on the genre, setting this goal to be impossible and dangerous enough can be a major driver of a story's tension. Take Katniss's goal of surviving in The Hunger Games. But this also plays in with the conflict and stakes, which I will still get into. 

At any rate, knowing your goal, even if you're a pantser like me, gives you something to write towards. A point that pulls your writing forward and prevents you from waffling around too much, trying to find a direction for your story. (Although in saying this, I will admit that most of my rough drafts are focused almost exclusively on finding the goal in the first place. Yes, I'm secretly that character-driven. And that much of a pantser.)

How Does One Set the Goal?

There are a myriad of ways in which to do this, so I'll list a few. 

1) Like I mentioned in my post on characters, you can let the goal come out of your character's motivation. Think of your character and the type of person they are. What kind of goal would they set in a given situation? 
2) Write without setting the goal and hope for the best, or write a rough draft specifically to discover the goal. (Although realize that this probably will require you rewriting the entire thing once you've found your direction.)
3) Decide first thing what you want the goal to be and build the concept, scenarios and characters around it. 
4) Look at your main character again. Decide what goal would create the most internal (and/or external) conflict for a character, push them to (or beyond) their limits, and/or provide the greatest measure of character growth. 
5) If you're going with a genre that has an inherent, unstated goal (like the happily-ever-after in romances), what goal would you like to set (and state) that will act as a nice backdrop to, and will help create conflicts for the unstated main goal? A good example of this can be found in the movie You've Got Mail. Two characters have been anonymously chatting online and they're obviously made for each other. Problem is that they actually know each other in real life and hate each other because one's goal is to put the other's family business...out of business. 

These are approaches I've taken to set goals in my stories, but I'm sure there are more ways that I haven't thought of.

How do you find your story's main goal? 

Friday, October 13, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Picking Your Story Idea

Hey everyone! Today's my first vlog post for my NaNo Need-to-Knows series (click here for the list of posts as the series progresses). Right now, the vlog part is dealing more with survival strategies than technique (whereas my blog posts are more technical) so I thought I'd start at the very beginning.

The script I used for this vlog post is under the video.



October is here, and that means it’s time to start ramping up for NaNoWriMo. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month is a writing marathon where writers try to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November.

It’s something I believe writers should try at least once, but NaNo is hard. I’m not going to lie. This will be my eighth NaNo, and I still have days in November when I wonder why I do it to myself.

But I always end November with a sense of accomplishment because I always get more done than I do in other months, even if I don’t get to 50,000 words.

It can be a bit of an overwhelming experience, especially for newbies, so I decided to start a blog and vlog series about things you need to know about and for NaNo. Hopefully it will make the process just a bit easier for you. I will provide the links to my blogs below.

Right now, my blog posts are dealing more with some story tips, while the vlogs are dealing with survival tips. And since this is Week 1 of the series, I thought I’d start with advice on deciding what you want to work on.

So you’ve decided you’re going to do NaNo, but you don’t know what you want to work on. What do you do?

My first tip is: Write what you wish you could read more of.

If you have been waiting for a book to come out about a pirate mermaid in space and it’s just not coming out, that could be your sign to write it yourself.

Bonus points because of the fact that you’re already passionate about your idea.

Which brings me to my next tip:

Pick the story idea you’re most passionate about.

If you have more than one idea that you want to get to, make sure you pick the one that makes your heart beat faster when you think about.

Writing is already a challenge. Racing time to write about 1,700 words a day makes it even harder. Accomplishing this mammoth task with a story that feels like a punishment to work on because you’re just not that into it is going to make NaNo almost impossible.

So don’t do it to yourself. Pick the idea you love.

But what to do if you’re equally passionate about both?

Pick the most complete story idea.

Once NaNo starts, you don’t want to stop to rework a story idea because it turned out not to be strong enough to carry a 50,000-word story.

So pick the idea with the biggest goals, the strongest inherent conflicts and the highest stakes. If your ideas lack those, it’s a good idea to figure them out for all of your possible options, and then compare.

I’ll providing tips on my blogs to help you with this.

But then, what if both stories are strong?

What if you’re equally passionate about two stories, and both of them come with everything you’d need to ever make them both awesome?

Just Pick One.

Yep, you heard me. If you’re wavering between two ideas, you’re really wasting time you could be spending on preparation or worse, on NaNo itself.

So if you trust your ideas, pick which one you’re going to write and promise to get to the other once this one is done. Be decisive and commit to one of your awesome ideas.

Or Pick Both.

Now we’re venturing into Rebel territory, but if you feel like you can handle it and you don’t want to leave one of your stories by the wayside, write both concurrently. I have a whole new series worth of advice for people who want to do this, but there’s just no time right now.

It’s not for everyone, though, so tread lightly. But just keep it in mind as an option, because if you have your heart set on NaNo’ing and you just can’t decide, it’s better to add 50,000 words across two books than it is to not write because you’re still wavering.

Before you go, do let me know if you’re going to do NaNo and leave your NaNo name so we can buddy up. Is this your first time or are you a veteran? Do you have any questions? What's your best advice for picking a story idea.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Your Characters

As part of my NaNo Need-to-Knows series, I'm sharing advice on the things you need in order to get through NaNoWriMo. (Click here for a list of links for the ongoing series.)



For the rest of October, the blog part of this series will deal with some writing technique things you need to know in order to create a strong NaNoWriMo Novel.

Since I'm more of a character-driven writer, I'm starting with characterization, but you can sort out the plot-related aspects first, if that's what you want. (I'll be starting with those on Monday.)

But what does one have to figure out with regards to characterization? And why is it important?

Who Is Your Main Character?

Do they have a name? What do they do? What do they want? What are their hopes, dreams and aspirations? What are they willing to do in order to achieve those? What are their worst fears? What are they willing to do to avoid those?

Yes, the way a character looks can be important for description purposes, but when it comes to creating a strong story, you need to go deeper than the superficial. 

Why? 

Because knowing your character means you know what your character will do in a given situation, which in turn can help you drive the plot forward as you write. 

Is your character prone to keeping grudges? Then having something happen to make them want to avenge themselves will be a great way to set a strong story goal. AND your character will want to go after that goal. 

Want means there are now personal stakes to achieving the goal, which is one of the best ways to maintain tension in a story. 

So make sure you get to know your character before you start, or that you create enough opportunities in your writing during NaNoWriMo to explore your characterization. 

Some ways to do this exploration before NaNoWriMo: 
  • Spend time to create detailed notes as you build your character. I've heard the snowflake method is particularly good for this. (As with most plotting-related activities.) 
  • Or you can take my approach of assuming a character to be a real person that you need to get to know. This approach might be out there, but I find that, if I treat characters like real people, they tend to feel more real in my writing too. Often, I simply do this by letting them live and make their own decisions in a story as I write, but if I want to prepare ahead, I do interviews with my characters. Yes, I literally act like I'm drinking coffee with a character. I'll ask them all kinds of stuff, having some real, deep conversations with them, and then I'll note down their answers. Not only does doing this help you understand a character, but it also helps you nail down the rhythms and cadences of their voice. (Which does come in handy later.) 

What Motivates Your Characters? 

In simple terms, character motivation is the reason behind the reason behind the reason behind the reason why a character does something. Think of it like peeling an onion. There's the skin at the surface, but under that is another layer, and another, and another. The deeper you go, the closer to the heart you get. 

And if you can get to the heart of any situation with a character, you can use that to strengthen the impact of what's going on. You'll also instantly know when a scene doesn't make sense, if it goes against the character's motivation. 

For example. You have a character (let's call her Sally), who gives a bitchy response to a snarky comment from another character (Dan).

Sally could theoretically have hundreds of choices about how she's going to respond to Dan's sass, and she goes for being nasty. Why? Why didn't she walk away instead? Or play sweet? 

Because she sees every sassy comment as an attack on her person and feels the need to retaliate. Why? 

Because she feels like the whole world is out to get her and she needs to fight to survive. Why? 

Because she's seen the hard side of the world and has been in survival mode her entire life. 

Why?
....

And this can go on forever, really. The deeper you go, the more information you have to mine. Just three why's in and we have a very tantalizing clue about Sally's backstory that can help fill her out as a character. And the deeper you go, the more info you'll have. So keep asking why.

Another benefit to knowing your characters' motivations is that you can create some incredibly compelling conflict just by having two characters' motivations and the resulting desires they have oppose each other. 

Characters wanting things are nice. But I frequently want to eat a chocolate. What do they need? What is the thing they would do anything to get because that need comes from the depths of their souls? Those are the truly important things, and if Sally needs something to happen, and Dan equally needs that same thing not to occur, you have instant fireworks. So take the time to learn your characters' motivations, and then figure out if you can put them in opposition to each other. 

It just livens up every scene containing those characters, because now every moment between them matters. 

Thanks for reading! How do you approach characterization? Any further characterization advice? 

Next week, I'll be talking about story goals and inciting incidents, and why they're important. And on my vlog on Friday, I'll be sharing tips on how to choose between story ideas for NaNo. If you're a Patreon patron for as little as $1 a month, you'll be able to watch my vlog post on Thursday instead. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: An Introduction

It was a bit of a shock a few days ago when I received a reminder from NaNoWriMo to announce my NaNo novel for this year. Silly, I know. You'd think I have a firmer hold on the progress of time, but there you go.

If you're new to writing and stumbled onto my blog, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is to write a "novel" or part of a novel of 50,000 words in the month of November.

It's a huge amount of fun, if you can handle the pressure, and the nice thing about it is that you're part of a larger NaNo community during this time. In fact, I met one of my best friends because of a NaNo event in my area. So yeah, it's a great way to get involved. Just click on the link up top for more information.

Anyway, since NaNoWriMo can be a bit overwhelming, especially for first-timers, I thought I'd spend the rest of October and November to give a bit of advice from my eight years of NaNo experience.


On Mondays, I'll do a series of blog posts (although the first post in this series will be on Wednesday to fit everything in, and I might use more Wednesdays if I need to). On Fridays, I'll be updating on my YouTube Channel. But don't worry, I'll be posting the video and my script on my blogs as well.

If you are joining and you want to buddy up with me, click here.

Okay, so before I start, I just want to clarify something about my approach. I'm a full-blown character-driven pantser, so I don't do much in the way of planning before I start a rough draft. That said, these posts will be useful to plot-driven plotters (which would be my polar opposites) as well. All you have to do is take my plot-related posts as reminders to include later if you're a pantser, and as some things to keep in mind if you plan if you're a plotter. And depending on whether you're a plot-driven or character-driven writer, you can scramble the order of my suggestions to fit you. All writing methods are valid, as long as your method helps you create a strong foundation to your story.

And the first few posts I'll be writing will be about the things you need to build that foundation. Then as we go into NaNo itself, I'll be changing to focus more on NaNo survival. (Because hey, no one said NaNo is easy.)

For ease of use, I'll be using this post as a table of contents for you to refer to.

Table of Contents: 



Who's going to join NaNoWriMo? What are you doing to prepare?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!

Hey everyone. On the first Wednesday of the month, it's time to post updates to the Insecure Writer's Support Group. The point of this bloghop is to share your writing insecurities, but also to encourage others. There's also a monthly question you can answer if you're not feeling all that insecure. For more information, just click the link.


So right in time for Halloween, I think my current WiP is cursed.

Why? Well. It was the first concept I ever started writing when I first decided to be serious about writing books. In other words, I've been working on it for sixteen years.

The first time I started it I saved it to a floppy disk that malfunctioned. (Yes, it's that old.)

The second time, I saved it to my computer. And then one day, my grandmother (the writer) had a computer malfunction and needed another computer to save her work. So while I was at school (yes, it's that old), my mom ripped the insides out of my computer and installed my grandmother's. And also, because she thought I was only playing minesweeper (that. old.) on my computer, she just trashed the insides.

The third time I tried this book, I finished the rough draft. This time, because I made the point of saving it to Dropbox. It had been written on Ywriter (which is relevant, bear with me.) and I got into the rewrites. I wrote all of the rewrites. And when I finished it and did my final backup, something went wrong, and the entirety of my rewrite disappeared as if I had never written it.

Fourth time I wrote it on Scrivener and finished the rewrite. Yay! Then I discovered I had to rewrite it again. Awe.

And now, on the fifth try, after sixteen years, Scrivener lost me everything I had written on the weekend. Which doesn't sound that bad, but oooooooohhhhh is it bad. Because I had shifted the focus this time, and this chapter had been the moment where the momentum picked up. And Scrivener has successfully gutted it.

And yes, it's them. I save the file to my computer, and then save a copy to my dropbox. So the original file on my hard drive should be stable. And if you're wondering why I don't just get the back-up file Scrivener backed up for me... Did you know that Scrivener's default is to back up only five versions? And did you know that back-up happens every time it autosaves? Yuuuuuuup. In the time it took me to figure out that no, it didn't back up to my dropbox either, Scrivener had overwritten the back-ups from the day.

So yeah.

Cursed.

Have you ever worked on a cursed project? Did you ever manage to finish it?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Update Day: Spring-Is-Supposed-to-Be-in-the-Air-So-Where-Is-It? Edition

Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another update to the Got Goals? Bloghop. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the bloghop. A few of us writers have set some crazy, huge or hugely important goals and are working toward achieving them. To keep us accountable and motivated, we post monthly updates on our progress.

You're welcome to join in too. Just go here for more information.


How did I do?

I went into September with multiple challenges facing me. For one thing, the book I've been wanting to work on (the Western Romance) ended up needing to be rewritten again. Usually, that's not a problem, but I really battled to get into writing it again.

Eventually, I just decided to give myself a break and work on something different, which ended up taking the form of poems and a short story. 

A few days of that and it was as if the cobwebs finally cleared away. So I did finally figure out what I wanted to do with the romance and started on it. 

Along with that, I've managed to do some freelance work and work on my startup. 

So all in all, not too shabby, although I do wish I had written more. 

What do I want to achieve in October?

I actually have a whole slew of things I want to do this coming month, so let's have some fun with seeing how far I get.

1) It's time for me to start revising Book 3 in The War of Six Crowns. I've given myself enough time off from it, so I should be able to see the glaring faults that I might have been blind to before. 
2) Speaking of The War of Six Crowns, I want to finish the covers so that I can get that one step closer to updating the first two books. (And eventually, my website.)
3) I want to keep working on Eden's Son, the Western Romance, because I want to see about publishing it this year or early next year. (Maybe, if Book 3 doesn't take up too much time.) 
4) I want to help with marketing this year's Untethered Realms anthology, Spirits in the Water. 

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A haunted journey on a riverboat, water sprites borne of pennies, preternatural creatures, ancient serpents, and The Lady of the Lake lurk in dark waters. Raging storms and magical rainbow fountains. Water is spectacularly beautiful but also treacherous.

Angela Brown gives us Extraordinary. Puberty hits Angelique like a gut punch and brings about a change, forcing an unexpected revelation about her past. All seems well until a vicious storm tears through her Texas community, and Angelique learns there are worse things than a little change.

Jeff Chapman offers The Water Wight. When a drowned girl changes her mind about suicide, Merliss and her associates face a fearsome, preternatural creature.

River Fairchild presents You Can't Go Home Again. A young woman, filled with regret about the past, goes on a journey and discovers more than she bargained for.

Gwen Gardner gives us Shake, Rattle and Row. Harlow Grayson has the chance to rid herself of a pesky ghost but she must first brave a haunted riverboat and recover a family heirloom. What she finds might be more than she can handle.

M. Gerrick gives us The One Who Would Wield the Sword. Nikka is supposed to be nothing more than dragon bait so a real dragon hunter can do his job, but the Lady in the Lake has other plans for her.

Meradeth Houston presents The Flood. Sometimes a flooded kitchen isn't the unluckiest thing to happen to you.

Simon Kewin offers us The Waters, Dividing the Land. Hyrn the horned god of the woodlands is learning the meaning of fear. Death magic blights the land, threatening everyone and everything. To save what he can from spreading corruption he turns to the ancient river serpents, but they’ve grown old and distant, and may not hear his call at all.

M. Pax presents The Wallows. Evernee Weems wants to escape this world in the worst way. Her daughter needs everything, the rent is being raised, Evernee’s job barely pays minimum wage, and she has little hope for better. Inside a puddle is a different reality. She jumps in, happy to trade her problems for a life in which worries don’t exist. Or do they?

Christine Rains gives us Frozen. A necromancer is on the frozen moon of Saturn where the dead do scream.

Cherie Reich presents The Folding Point. Aimee's fight against those who banned paper magics has begun.

Catherine Stine offers Maizy of Bellagio. April still searches for her mother who vanished nineteen years ago from the fountain at Hotel Bellagio in Vegas. Can Maizy, a water sprite who works the fountain’s pink colors begin to help the three generations of eccentric women tortured by this tragedy?

From USA Today, Amazon bestselling, and popular science fiction and fantasy authors comes Spirits in the Water, a supernatural anthology of eleven thrilling tales. Spirits in the Water is the fourth, long-awaited Elements story collection from the dynamic and inventive Untethered Realms group. Coming October 2017.

Available for pre-order at: 

5) I want to edit and submit a short story I wrote this month. 
6) I want to write at least four more poems in October. 

What about you? How did you do in September? What would you like to achieve in October?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Silence

Last week, I didn't update anything. Mostly, it was because I had a mad week, including one day where I was sitting on a film set, pretending to watch tennis for about twelve hours.

But except for that, knowing that I would be doing that all day meant I had to squeeze everything else into the rest of my week. (And you guys know I'm snowed under in the best of circumstances.)

Honestly, though, I've been quiet last week for another reason: 911.

Monday came and I didn't know what to say. I remembered the day our lives all changed, but I couldn't find anything to say about it. It would have been good to say that it's brought us closer together, but recent events have all but proven that it has not.

So what do I say?

How sad it was? That's ridiculous, given the cost of life, both on the day and as a result of the aftermath. It's not a sad day. It was and still is a tragedy.

Do I talk about how the world has gotten up from this blow and became a better place because we refused to give in to fear, hatred and bigotry?

Do I say I'll remember? That I'll never forget? Again... pointless because that goes without saying. But what does "Never Forget" even mean? Last year, I thought of it as a call to remember the dead, the loss of innocence. Last week, it felt like recalling an old grudge.

So really. I'm at a loss. And I've been at a loss for days.

Friday, September 8, 2017

My Five Writing Rules

Hey everyone!

This video is a continuation of my vlog on making sense of writing advice. In the previous vlog, I had pointed out that not all rules suit all people, so this time I shared the rules I apply the most to my own writing.


Here's the script, for those of you who don't like the video thing...

My Five Writing Rules

I decided it’s time to get back to those writing rules. Previously, I talked about how no writing rule is ever hard and fast for every writer, but I thought it might be interesting to share my personal rules because those very much dictate the reading experience of my writing.
Man. I actually have a lot of them. But let’s start with 5.

1) In rough drafts, there are no rules.

For me, rough drafts are where my mind can really take wing and fly, so I try to write without worrying about anything. I write for me. What I find interesting. What I want to enjoy. And if that means breaking a million so-called writing rules, that’s fine. I rein it all back in later.

2) Always Rewrite.

Since I just let my words bleed onto the page, the end result is… Okay bad. It’s bad. Really. Really. Bad.

But I expected that and it’s okay. I really don’t believe in perfect first drafts. Because in between the million things that don’t work in the rough draft, there are the hundred things that do, and I wouldn’t have found them if I kept stressing about the quality of my output.

So I take those things I like and I build the story again from scratch, using those things as my foundation. And the result of that draft is miles better.

3) Wait for it…

My writing process is filled with stops and starts. I’ll do an intensive writing period where I’m rough drafting a book. As soon as it’s done, though, I set it aside for at least a month. Then I spend time furiously rewriting the same story. And another rest period. Then I revise. And wait. And edit. And wait… And so on.

Because when it comes to perfecting my work, I need distance from it. Distance means time away.

4) Edit and edit some more.

When it comes to getting the book ready for publishing, I’m a bit of an editing fiend. If drafting is for myself, editing is for my readers. So I’ll go over the manuscript again and again, doing my absolute best to make sure the readers have at least a little taste of my experience as I wrote it.

This is also the place where a story goes from meh to amazing, so I go over it again and again until I find nothing more to change. And then I bring outside help in to see if they can’t find anything I missed.

5) At some point, I have to stop.

This is probably the hardest rule for me to follow. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my work, so I could find better ways to do things and say things and better places for commas almost indefinitely, if I let this perfectionistic streak run amok.

So there’s a point where I know I’m satisfied enough and where any further tweaking is superfluous. That’s where I stop.

It’s hard, though. And that’s where I miss having a publisher who can come in and pull the manuscript from my grabby hands.

That’s it for today! What is your biggest writing rule?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: I'm Back and Boy Am I Feeling the Insecurity

Hey all!

Heads-up to everyone wanting to support Hurricane Harvey victims: There's a charity auction going on right now here

If you're planning to self-publish, you can bid on my ebook and paperback formatting offer.


I've been away from the Insecure Writers' Support Group for a while, but yesterday I decided to get right back onto that bandwagon.

For those of you who aren't familiar with IWSG, it's the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, where us writers can go to share our fears and insecurities once a month, on the first Wednesday. In addition, there is also an optional extra question for those of us who just don't feel that insecure at the time.

 

I have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge insecurity this month, but I stupidly made that my vlog post for last Friday. 

Lucky me, I also have another, smaller, niggling insecurity that I've been trying to ignore. And that big insecurity has just made that feeling much worse. 

In short, I feel like nothing's getting done. 

Which is a stupid feeling for me to have, as I literally have a list every day, where I'm checking off task after task that I've finished. 

But. 

There was once a time when I was capable of rough drafting, rewriting and editing a manuscript in six to eight months. 

That's a lovely pace to maintain. And I did it while having a day-job. 

But since then, all of my projects just seem to be stuck in mud. Book 3 in The War of Six Crowns has been two years (!!!) in the making and it's still not done. And now I'm having problems with another project that will be setting me back for some more months on that. (This is my big insecurity.) 

That's not the worst, though. 

The worst is that I've made the decision to become a full-time writer a year ago. Did that help me speed up? 

Nope. Because now that I have more time for writerly things, I somehow also have less time to actually write, because to be a writer who isn't also a starving writer, I have to do other writing-related jobs for money. This part is surprisingly successful. 

But actually writing? 

Uhm....

Uhm....

Uhm.....

I haven't been able to write in more than a month, now. Mainly because of the crippling insecurity around that other book. But also because I conveniently have a million other things to do, which makes it so easy to procrastinate. 

Sigh. 

Anyone else feel like they're stuck in mud with their writing? I'd ask how you get over that feeling, but I already know the only thing to do is actually stop moaning and start actually working on something again. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Hate My Internal Editor Because It's Right

Hey everyone! Before I get to today's vlog post, I just wanted to let you know that I signed up for a charity auction for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I'm offering to format a book for paperback and ebook, so if that's something you need, you might end you getting my services for a steal. You can click here for more information.

Okay! Time for today's vlog. As always, I left the script at the bottom for those of you who just can't get into the vlog thing. Enjoy!



If I was to think of one word to summarize how I am right now, it would be:

FRUSTRATED.

Why?

Because I have this brain that tells me things like “Hah. You really want to just edit and publish this shit?”

Sarcastic voice and all.

Which I tend to ignore because often, that voice is dead wrong. However, out of two books I’ve wanted to pick up for revision, this voice chimed in twice. And it was right… twice.

Not that this is really a bad thing. I’m taking a long-term view of self-publishing. Yes, I could be publishing once every three months right now, but would I be happy with the quality of my books? Eh…no.

Which isn’t to bash people who are able to do that.

I just can’t.

It’s hard enough to let go of a book as it is. Let’s not rush the process.

But the thing is, my method has always worked as follows: Rough draft by hand, rewrite to computer (with a plan), revise, edit a million times, proofread a few times more, and then I’m ready for formatting.

Except now it’s not working that way. Because now, when my inner editor takes a look at my rewritten draft, it’s seeing glaring weaknesses that would be better solved with yet another rewrite than with revisions.

The previous three times this inner editor chimed up, I could say, “Hey chill out. Yes, it’s not perfect. But a scene here and there would be all this needs to be perfect.”

The last two times, though, my inner editor helpfully pointed out that somewhere between a half and three quarters of my plot wasn’t written.

And that’s a rewrite-scope problem. How do I know? Because the first time it happened, it took me almost a years’ worth of rewrites and FOUR TIMES the amount of words to tell the story in the right way.

But at least there I had the excuse of wanting to split a book in two.

This time, no such luck. This time, I just let major plot points occur way before intro and build-up was done. And so it feels like at least the first third of a story is missing.
Can I fix it by inserting those scenes? Not this time. Because stuff that’s missing now will impact reactions later.

So it’s another rewrite for me. On a book that’s been rewritten four times already, over sixteen years.

Kill me now.

Have you ever prepared to edit, only to realize the underlying draft isn’t worth editing? Did you ignore that feeling or did you rewrite? How did it work out for you? 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Why Writers Need Critique Partners


On September 4th, 2016, I had decided to use my knowledge gained from about sixteen years of writing in order to stabilize my income. I started freelancing as an editor and critique partner on Fiverr and Upwork.

For the most part, I love this job, because it basically pays me to read. A lot. 

But there's a flip-side: I sometimes have to deal with a lot of writing by people learning the craft. Don't get me wrong. I love helping people. But the truth is that often, an editorial letter and comments written into the margins of a manuscript just aren't enough to explain exactly what I mean. 

The biggest reason for this is the huge disconnect in experience between me and my client. At the moment, probably close to two thirds of my clients for content edits are first-time writers. They paid for me to tell them how to improve their stories. 

But when it comes to things that I take for granted, they never even thought about it. Within this blogging community, we've formed a sort of short-hand. When someone's offering to exchange critiques with me, I know it's okay for us to use that short-hand, because we do share a common background when it comes to how and where we find our knowledge.

So in a lot of ways, the bloggosphere forms a sort of hive-mind. Although the transmission of information isn't perfect, I usually know, when I picked another blogger's work up to critique, more or less what the level is that I'm batting for. So when I say, "Your opening isn't really hooking me," I'm pretty dang sure the writer I'm critiquing either knows what I mean, or knows where to find the information they need to correct this issue. 

My belief that this is so is further reinforced by the general level of writing I've critiqued over the last seven years. You can see when someone has a concept of what's going on. 

I believe there are certain fundamentals to the plot and development of fiction (regardless of genre). And most of the time, people in my network get the majority of those fundamentals right. In this way, then, content editing is more about catching where the writer slipped than anything else. I think it's because we are a network that shares what we learned and often I would critique someone, who critiques someone else, who critiques someone else, etc. Because a large amount of us are connected in multiple degrees (I have 20 people or more in my network who are also in your network), it means that the information I share gets refined and then applied to my work again when one of you reads for me. And just so, if I learn something new because of something one of my critique partners (CPs) picked up, I can take that information, refine it, and apply it to that CP's work, and also the work of all my other CPs. 

And so, overall, the quality of our output increases. 

But when I'm freelancing, all those assumptions go out the window. I can't say "This opening isn't a good hook," because the writer has no idea what a hook is. 

And often, none of the fundamentals are there. 

Without any of the fundamentals in place, it's almost impossible to improve the writing without rewriting the whole thing first. And no matter how nicely I try to put it, that's an incredibly demoralizing thing for a new writer to find out.

I'm talking about things like character arcs. I'm talking about motivation. I'm talking about internal logic. I'm talking about obedience to the set-up. I'm talking about having the set-up be in the writing, in a way that's palpable to the reader. I'm talking about not having certain plot points in the writing because it's "done" in the genre, but have that be at the cost of believability. I'm talking about the ways to create tension and to keep the pacing at a reasonable clip. 

These things rarely come naturally to writers. They're learned by trial and error. And honestly, I don't think learning all that by paying an editor is the best way to do that. 

So my suggestion: Don't give up on writing. On the contrary, write more. Practice. But improve on your craft by learning from other writers. Get critique partners and learn both from the critiques you get and the ones you give. Read up to understand why your CPs are suggesting certain things. Learn.

That way, your developmental editor is there to help you perfect what you wrote and revised, instead of finding gaping holes that will make you want to write off your skill as a writer entirely. 

Also, it's easier for a content editor to write a thousand-word outline of why this one thing needs work. Not so much when all of your fundamentals are missing. It's simply too much knowledge for someone to impart in one go, and it's also too much for you, with your small amount of experience, to understand.

All of us had to start somewhere. But those of us who are here after ten years or more crawled before we ran. 

And if you're a new writer paying for an editor without having critique partners look at your writing first, you basically tried to skip to riding a unicycle. 

Do you have critique partners? If so, how did you find them? Any tips for finding and being an awesome critique partner?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Update Day: The End of Year 1

Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another update on the Got Goals Bloghop. For those of you unfamiliar with Update Day, a bunch of us set some crazy or just plain important goals and update each other on our progress once a month. If you would like more information or to just see who else is taking part, please click here.

PLEASE NOTE IF YOU ARE ALREADY A PARTICIPANT: The site hosting the linky sign-up is down, so please follow the link above to be taken to a blog post where you can leave your update link.


On 4 September, 2016, I had decided to reset my goals and approach writing as a full-time job, where I use my writing knowledge in various ways in order to make a sustainable income.

When I started out, a lot of people thought I was nuts. Heck. Some days, especially in November, I felt I was nuts.

But here I am.

I made it.

So I thought I'd share my thoughts on my progress.

I've been earning minimum wage pretty much consistently this year.

This is both a good and a bad thing. On the good side, the money I earned was enough to keep me and my family going during hard times. 

On the bad, I would have liked to earn more by now. 

The probable reason why I didn't? When I had started out, I had planned to use the money I make to market my books to sell more of them, which would have generated extra income aside from the freelancing I now do. 

But that money basically went into surviving for a large chunk of the year, and otherwise to keep my freelance side of the business afloat. So about 90% of my income is from freelancing, where I would have liked a more even split between my sources of income. And given that those other sources of income would have been passive, meaning I didn't need to do much myself to earn the money, I fell short of where I wanted to be.

That said, the fact that I've been generating pretty much an even income every month means that I should be able to use my freelance work as a spine as I spend next year preparing to publish more books again. 

I finally finished Book 3. 

Ah yes. Book 3. 

Number 1 reason why I didn't publish anything this year: My life went to hell in a handbasket starting around February. 

Number 2 reason: Book 3 itself. The War of Six Crowns is my major focus, writing-wise, so I've basically put all my available time into getting it publishing-ready. The problem is I completely underestimated the sheer size of this project. 

A lot of times this year, Book 3 felt like a bottomless, endless pit and, it wasn't only a case of not being able to finish it on schedule, but also the fact that I literally couldn't work on anything else all year. 

I finished rewriting Book 3 in August, about nine months after I had planned to publish it. Now I'm taking the approach of it's going to take as long as it's going to take, because after putting in this amount of work, I'm really not excited to rush it to market without being happy with the quality. 

Getting something done is like opening a nesting doll. 

Maybe it's because of the way I look at things, but sometimes it feels like everything is connected to everything else. And sometimes, it can be hard to see what needs to be done first. Do I finish writing a book or do I update my website? Do I update my covers and interior or do I set up the newsletter so I can include the newsletter sign-up? Do I spend the morning freelancing so I can get this job out of the way, or do I spend it writing so I can actually make progress on my own work? 

And so on. 

And if I do manage to finish one thing, I take another look and see a thousand more. This often makes it feel like I'm not really making a lot of progress, but as I sit here, looking back, I'm awed. 

And I know that I laid some groundwork for an astounding Year 2. 

How are you doing? Do you have any major goals you're working on?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Visiting Juneta

Hey lovely people! I just wanted to let you know that I'm visiting Juneta's blog today to talk about my writing journey thus far. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 14, 2017

How Writers Can Stretch Time, in Four Steps

Unless the wheels have spectacularly come off my life in some way, people have a tendency to be amazed by how much I get done in a month. And every now and then, someone will ask me how I manage it.

After all, we writers have the same amount of hours in the day. So how do I stretch mine to get so much done?

Step 1: Set Goals and Break Them Into Smaller Chunks

How does that help a writer stretch time? you might ask. Well. One of my big secrets to getting stuff done is knowing what I want to do.

So I set myself some huge goals, and then I break them into progressively smaller chunks.

For example:

Goal 1: Make a living wage from writing books. 
  1. Write books. 
    1. Write this one book. 
      1. Write 1,000 words every day.
      2. Write 50,000 words.
    2. Write the next book. 
      1. Write 1,000 words every day. 
      2. Write 50,000 words.
  2. Edit books. 
    1. Revisions
    2. Edits
    3. Proofread
  3. Publish books
    1. Format books.
    2. Upload them to retailers. 
And so on. Now I not only have this big goal, but I also see the steps to get to that goal. (The ones that are in my control, anyway.)

I often break even the steps into smaller steps, until I have hundreds of little things I need to do.

Which might sound terrifying, but what sounds easier:

Make a living from writing? Or write 1,000 words today?

So what I'm doing is to break all of my goals into smaller, bite-sized chunks. And then I move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Set Your Priorities. 

Once I know what I want and how I'm planning to get there, I can sit down and decide what's the most important to me. 

But here's the important thing: I decide what's important to me right now. 

This bit is a trick to my success, because a lot of those big goals I set are pretty much equal when it comes to how important they are in my life. 

I don't have kids, but if I had, I wouldn't be able to say writing is more important than my children. But I wouldn't ever be able to call writing unimportant either. 

So the thing is, if you're sitting down to get going, there will be things on that specific day that's more important. If you know you want to focus on that, then focus on that. But also know when you've neglected some other aspect, so you can temporarily bump that thing up your priority list in order to even everything out. 

Step 3: Create a To-Do List.

Once I know all the things that are really important, I can quickly write down the 10 things that are weighing on me the most. (I like 10 for being a nice, even number, but pick whatever works for you.) 

Next thing I do is to number the order in which I'd like to do those 10 things. 

Why? 

Because if I decide upfront what I want to do after I've finished the task at hand, I don't have to waste time later trying to decide what I should be doing. 

How do I pick the order? 

This depends. Some days, it's in order of the shortest deadline to the longest. Other days, it's Writing first and everything else next. Today I'm not feeling a bit lethargic, so I'm making up for it by starting with something easy, then something hard, then easy, then hard etc. 

Step 4: Start Doing

Yeah I know. Obvious, right? But sometimes, people underestimate how important it is to just get going. There's a reason why, when it comes to the setting of my to-do list, I keep things simple. I don't try to schedule anything because I know it takes longer for me to schedule and re-schedule as my day shifts. Time that I could actually be using to tick stuff off my to-do list. 

So once I have my 10 things and I know in which order I'd like to do things. I start. If something happens to prevent me from completing one task, I move onto the next. (Writing this blog is task number 4. Number 3 is postponed because I'm waiting for information.) I might get back to it later. I might postpone to tomorrow. 

And no, there's nothing wrong with postponing as long as it's not going to break a deadline. Because unless you set the bar really low, there's no way you're going to finish all the tasks you set for yourself. 

So move the stuff you didn't get to. Just as long as you get it done. 

And My Big Secret? 

I don't multitask. 

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? 

Yeah, I know. People usually act like multitasking is the way to go. Especially if you have as many and as varied goals as I do. 

But here's the thing. No one actually multitasks. 

You're just rapidly switching your focus from one thing to the next thing. 

As I'm sitting here, I'm writing this post without looking at my twitter. When I'm doing my social networking stuff, I don't do it while watching T.V. When I am doing something to relax, I try to do so without bringing "work" along. Unless you count crafting as work. But that's a whole other story. 

Point is: If I'm at task number 1, I focus on that task until it's done, or until I take a break. 

And then I focus on the next thing. 

And the next thing. 

And the next. 

Why? 

Because when I'm focusing, I'm making fewer mistakes. And I actually speed up. Because I don't even have the smallest moment of thinking "what did I want to do here again?" 

And so, things get done one little step at a time. And then at the end of the month, I take stock and actually realize how much I have achieved. 

What about you? Are you a multitasker? Do you have a system for getting everything done? What tips do you have? 


Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Things to Remember When Giving Writing Advice


This morning, I watched a vlog post by one of my favorite writing vloggers on YouTube. And to be honest, the post left me fuming.

The post was about ten types of writers that are "the worst," as in people who suck.

And I did agree with nine out of the ten points, because they dealt with things like genre elitists, mansplainers etc.

But one was basically a take-down of character-driven pantsers like me. And that ticked me off, because she basically lumped a perfectly valid approach to writing right in there with writers who want to write but never actually do and people who write comments on writing without understanding what writing is about.

Because apparently, having a character who doesn't want to do something you wanted them to do isn't a justifiable reason to be stuck.

Which, as someone who actually has been writing while giving my characters free rein for years and actually has about 25 finished rough drafts as a result, I find to be a ridiculous assertion for a plotter to make.

But to give you plotter dudes an idea, this little inclusion in her "the worst" list is like me calling you chickenshit for insisting on a comfort blanket that is your plot outline before starting out. Because pantsing is true creativity, y'all.

*Eye roll*

And insulting people for using a method just because you don't use it, or just because you never thought to use it, is not cool.

Still, it did get me thinking about the things we do when giving and receiving advice and since I'm kinda in a mini-blog series about so-called "writing rules," I thought I'd write them down as tips of my own.

1) Even if you have a big following (and especially then), it's probably a bad idea to thoughtlessly mock roughly half of your following if you're not qualified by personal experience to comment on their method. 

Hell, this is a stupid idea in general.

2) Before you spout off on something, maybe consider if someone approaching writing in a certain way you disagree with actually helps that person write. 

Because if you're going to discourage a natural pantser from pantsing, you're not helping that person at all.

3) Keep in mind that people of various experience levels are consuming your advice. Tailor your information accordingly. 

4) Consider whether the limitations of your medium of choice allows you to do any statements you make justice. 

If you have under ten minutes in your vlog and you can't take the time to justify your opinion with more than a few trite, bullshit witticisms about why half your following is wrong, maybe this vlog post isn't the place to include this particular opinion.

5) If you're out to make yourself look smarter and better by insulting those different from you, you're doing it wrong

What about you? Have you ever seen or heard someone share writing advice that made your blood boil? 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Update Day: Warning. This Is a Big One.

Hey everyone! Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, which means it was time for another Update Day. Sadly for me, I was forced to miss updating in time because the Internet went down.

For those of you wondering what on Earth I'm talking about, a few of us writers are taking part in a bloghop hosted by me and Jen Garrett, where we set crazy or just seriously important goals, and then post updates on the last Friday of the month.

A lot of stuff has happened though, which has solidified my priorities, so bewarned, this is going to be a long post as I set out and explain my major goals for the next few weeks and months ahead. Ready?

Okay strap in.


So How Did I Do? 

It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with a lot of fails mixed in with my success. 

The big thing is: 

I finished drafting Book 3! *sparkly confetti*

Everything else... Meh. 

Book 3 got done with about 20k words left to spare, and once I did that, I just couldn't keep the momentum going on another project. Used to be that I could easily switch between projects, but I'm out of practice because Book 3 has basically been taking up all my creative mind space for the past two years. 

So this Camp NaNo, despite me doing awesome for as long as I was writing, is going to be a lose for me. Oh well. 

And as for my social media... I tried to update my blog once a week on Fridays, which I mostly succeeded at, but I skipped last week because I was drained from finishing Book 3. (I did the last chapters in an eight-thousand-word marathon.)

Because of this and a whole lot of other stuff I'll get into in a bit, I also didn't get around to vlogging. I have recorded a video, but didn't edit it because I thought it would be better if my first update in a while was for this post... And then I got busy with this other thing and didn't record the video. 

*Sigh.*

I was active on twitter and I estimate I've gained close to 200 followers between my two accounts, so that's a win. 

Then, I also did two mammoth editing jobs for clients and am now working on a third, AND I've been working on the covers for The War of Six Crowns, the series. And man. The updated cover for The Vanished Knight is gorgeous. I think it might be my best yet, and the concept for the series of covers really has me excited, because it's a major challenges. 

Then I've also managed to do some reading. 

AND! Once I've wrapped up Book 3, I've started kicking my unhealthy lifestyle to the curb. 

Wow. Now that I'm listing everything I've achieved... I've actually had an epic month. 

What Would I Like to Do in the Next Few Months? 

Writing 

Because Book 3 needs to rest, I'm going to work on something else. And some of you guys, who've beta'ed for me in the past, will possibly be glad to know I've decided to do some work on Eden's Son, my Historical Romance. 

I just really need a change of pace from Book 3, and I though it could be nice if I managed to wrap up ES1 and publish it this year, since it's the second oldest story I've written and the oldest of my story concepts. (I've been working on various iterations of this story basically forever. In fact, the first novel I ever started to write is a book in this series, before I realized that there was a lot of story before that book that needed to be told first.) 

Also, at the risk of sounding really cynical, it would be nice if I have a romance out to help stabilize my writing income. But I freaking love this story, so it's going to be a pleasure to get it done after sixteen odd years.

Publishing and Marketing Stuff

There is soooooooooooo much I need to do that I haven't gotten around to before. I just couldn't focus on all this when I had Book 3 staring at me like a baleful child. But now it's done, So I can at least to do the following: 

1) Regular blog and vlog posts.
I at least want to get back to my Monday/Friday schedule, with Friday featuring a vlog post of some sort. For that, I'm probably going to start filming a whole lot of videos on writing topics that I can edit as needed so I have a bit more of a buffer for when I'm busy, and then I'm going to do my more personal vlog updates on the fly when I have the opportunity. I want my Monday blog posts to relate to my Friday posts in some way, so that's also going to help me get some content done in time. Although I love being all nice and personal, I also realize that adding value is something I haven't been able to do for years, so I need to fix that. 

2) Continue with my graphic design self-study. 
Believe it or not, I've gone from designing my own covers because it's cheaper to designing my own covers because I love them more than I do when someone else designs for me. So to save myself the pain and tears of having to learn things the hard way, I'm doing a graphic design course so I can get a better concept of what's going on and how to achieve what I want to achieve with my covers. 

I'm a terrible boss to myself. My whole feeling is that if I'm going to self publish, all aspects of the production of my book needs to be better than what anyone else would have done for me. That means I'm learning some mad skills. Helps that my freelancing activities are basically paying me to learn stuff. 

3) Update my website. 
This is another thing where my graphic design is going to come in handy. My old author website is so out of date that I don't even point people at it anymore. So that needs to be fixed. Before that can happen, though: 

4) Update the cover to The Heir's Choice. 
I need to implement the ideas I have brewing for that cover and as a bonus, do a few fixes on the cover to Endless while I'm at it. Once those are done, I can get into building the new site. (Which is another skill I'm having to learn. Insane, but makes sense given my other job... More on this later.) 

5) Set-up a newsletter (or three) with a signup page on my website. 
I've resisted the newsletter thing for a while because I didn't believe I had enough people interested in reading a newsletter. Thanks to Wattpad, this has now changed. The Vanished Knight now has close to 250k reads and a whole lot of people who keep contacting me for updates on Book 3. 

6) Update the front and back-matter of my books to point to the website and newsletter. 
And while I'm at it, I'm just going to reformat the whole shebang. I've learned a boatload of new stuff since self-publishing the first time. So I'm taking the books up to the next level. 

CEO Duties

You didn't read that wrong. For the first time since I've finished my degree and started working for the family business, my mom's let me be the boss. 

I think I mentioned that we were working on another business thing where we had some investors interested in the project... Well... that concept underlying the business was my idea, so my mom and I agreed that I need to be in charge of it, although she's the MD, which means she's going to be the one to do the actual day-to-day running of the business once it's up. 

But basically, where we are requires a prototype of a site to be built for coders and also potential investors. And since this is a monster project and I hate people telling me "can't do it," we're going to build the first prototype ourselves to help outsiders see what we're envisaging. 

Which is, again, where learning some site-building skills will come in. Fun fact, the site has so many working parts that I'm probably going to be able to build a seriously ambitious author site...as practice. 

Freelancing

Depending on how much time I'm going to spend on the monster site, this is probably going to be the thing that gets a down-grade on my priority list. I'm going to try and not down-scale my freelancing in favor of my site because I still want to be a full-time writer (and the owner of a monster site.) 

But. It it's going to come down to a choice between my writing/publishing, the site, and the freelancing, I think you can see why the freelancing will be the first to give. 

Hopefully, though, I'll be able to get everything done. And the amazing amount of stuff I pulled off in July without feeling on the verge of collapse gives me hope. 

My Health 

Here's something I haven't really brought up in a while. Mostly because it's embarrassing, how bad I am at taking care of myself. 

Why? Because I know how bad certain foods are to me. I know how important it is, especially to me, not to just sit on my butt day-in and day-out. I know that eating healthily and exercising actually give me the energy I need to tackle major projects without getting drained. I know that sixteen-hour work days invariably come back to bite me in the butt at some point. In some really ugly ways. Especially when I'm not eating healthily or exercising.

But did that have any impact at all on my refined sugar intake, exercise habits, water consumption or work hours? 

Not.
One.
Jot. 

But when I finished up Book 3, I felt like I could rule the world, and then just kinda thought I could start by not screwing myself in the long run. I'd like to actually have a functional body when I'm old, so this is actually a bit of a priority.

1) Diet
No, I don't mean this in the "starve-myself and get trim" kind of way. I'm talking about changing my diet permanently. Which means no refined carbs and sugars. I know a lot of people have a fit every time I mention not consuming carbs as a major part of my diet. But you know what? The only time I really feel normal, when I'm not feeling like I'm going to crash, or get a massive headache any moment now, or just feel like I don't have the strength to do something, or even, for that matter, that I'm constantly hungry, even when I'm getting up from the table, is when I'm on a high-fat, low-carb diet. So that's what I'm doing. 

I'm not completely giving up carbs. I'm just getting mine in by consuming vegetables, fruit and honey instead of starch. 

2) Weight
Yeah yeah, I'm beautiful as I am. Really I am. This isn't a self-confidence thing as I was blessed with an ability to tie my confidence to issues other than my body. 

But. 

Being at the heaviest weight I've ever been at the age of 28 is not good for my back, which is something I have injured in the past. (More on this in a bit.) Also, my family has a history of heart disease and diabetes, both of which are tied to unhealthy diets and obesity. And yes. I'm blessed with a body that evenly distributes fat when I gain weight, but I am, in fact obese. 

So to save myself a lot of heartache and pain now, I'm going to get the weight down and keep it down. And so you know, I had just short of 40 kg (88 lb) to lose when I started on Sunday. So far this week, I'm 2.5 kg (5 lb 8 oz) down. 

3) Water
People always get told that they need 2 liters (half a gallon) of water a day, but did you know your requirement is actually determined by your weight? The heavier you are, the more water you require. 

So when I decided to track my weight and fix my diet, I also got myself an app to track my intake and remind myself to drink water. This might seem extreme, but I tend to forget to drink water when I write. So now I don't. 

And just so you know, the goal for my current weight is 3.5 liters (7.4 liquid pints) per day. And if you think that's impossible to do. It's not.

4) Exercise
As I mentioned before, I have injured my back in the past, so being overweight really doesn't help. And the whole reason I got injured in the first place was because my core was weak. And all I've done in the years since is let my core weaken further. 

No more. 

I've signed up for an app called 30 Day Challenge. It has a variety of exercise challenges based on what you want to focus on and how fit you are. The exercises are really intensive, mostly body-weight-resistance exercises, which means that the five-minute sessions I'm currently on are really making a huge difference to my body. 

One wouldn't think that five minutes would help, but my core has gone from being able to support me for at most five seconds of plank to thirty seconds of plank in a week. And if you don't think that's impressive, I don't think you've done the plank before.

The exercises never give me that "no-pain-no-gain" feeling, because they seem to be designed to be *just* enough to challenge the participant without demoralizing them. But every single day is just a little bit more challenging than the day before. And I assume that eventually, almost without noticing, I'll be in a place where I'll be able to do hours of exercise if I want without actually finding it to be daunting or impossible. (Which I do now.) 

This is mostly weight training, though, so I've started dancing again to get some cardio in. This week, I went to my first ever line dancing class, but I have a huge hankering for ballroom again too, so I might take that as well. 

5) My lifestyle in general. 
Other than the eating, water drinking and exercise, I also really need to sort out a few other things. Firstly, my sleeping patterns. Because of my insane (and I don't mean this as a self-compliment) work-ethic, I often work until 3 a.m. in the morning and start my day between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. I take almost no breaks from my computer once I sit down. 

So. I have to institute a stricter work-hour rule, where I don't pass a certain time, and where I then have to at least do something to rest in the evening. This can be reading or even some sort of craft. Or the dancing classes. 

Point is, I know I'm going to burn out if I continue keeping the hours I'm keeping, so I'm going to adapt now before I'm forced to by my own exhaustion. 

Balance is the thing I'm going for here, so I'm going to literally schedule in time to rest because otherwise I'm just going to forget. (Same way I forget to drink water.) 

Whoa that's a lot, so I'm going to stop here for now. But how did you do? Anyone feel like joining me on the 30 Day Challenge? 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Update: Nooooooooo!

Still ahead of schedule... Just.

I know that second weeks of NaNoWriMo months are harsh. They're kinda notorious for being as difficult to get through as swimming through molasses. That's why all of the encouragement we get from the organizers in week two features some version of "Hey it's okay to struggle. You're far from the only one, so just keep chipping away and things will get easier." 
To be honest, though, I thought I'd skip the difficult second week. Not because week one was epic (and it was), but because I'm in the final sixth of my book. These are the final chapters leading up to the climactic point and the last ones to finish the book off. 

They write themselves. 

They always have. 

Usually when I hit the last quarter of a book, I can easily write up to 6k words in a day. (My record is 10k in a single push.) 

But what I didn't count on was that, when I threw a huge curve ball at my characters, they would retaliate with a massive one in return. 

You'd think, after having about six iterations of this same event in my draft novels without much of a dent, nothing would change when I let the same thing happen now. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

Because I hadn't taken into account one major thing: Every time before, the thing happened early in the story. This time, it happened near the end. 

And because of everything that had happened before the event, the characters were now armed with a set of information that pointed to something I hadn't even looked at. 

Et voila. 

Devastation. 

I've been struggling to write even 1000 words a day since Tuesday. The moment I get to scenes around this event, my unwilling fingers slow down to a drag and I want to burst into tears. 

But hey! Drama's good. So I can't complain too much. 

I just have to get over this. 

And hopefully my poor readers will cry just as hard when they hit this scene. I'm not going to say what it was, but... I think you'll know when you see it. 

How are you doing? Have you ever had a character spring a whole new world of pain on you? How did you recover?

Friday, July 7, 2017

CampNaNo Progress Update: Ugh I'm So Annoyed with Myself

Hey everyone!

I've had a bit of a whirlwind week since last Friday, which is why I've been so quiet. The truth is that I had a few minutes in which to whip up a post for the blog, but I felt bad to update when I know for a fact that I won't have the time to visit bloggers.

That said, I've made some epic progress this week.

It started on Saturday. See, I've been working on some huge editing projects, and the big one was waiting for me this week. 120 thousand words is nothing to sneeze at and the client was waiting. So I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get everything done and still write.

The solution, spend my off time on the weekend to write enough to make up for par on Friday. That way, anything I wrote in the week would basically be a nice extra instead of a cause for alarm because I wasn't making the daily word count goal.

I didn't quite make it, but I did write 8,000 words in two days. And then I wrote 4,000 more on Monday.

As of yesterday, I was at just under 17k words in total.

Which is... a bit insane, really.

Especially when you think I was writing that much while editing someone else's book.

But then yesterday went wrong.

I'm not going to go into it in detail, but my first writing block in the morning got knocked out without me being able to write. So I decided to sit down and push to finish the editing project.

The thought is that if I do that, I basically have today and the weekend to write.

Good thinking.

But I ignored the niggling head-achy feeling forming behind my eyeballs.

The result: I had to go sleep at 8 p.m. (which knocked out my second writing session for the day). With the mother of a headache. People who've had one of these will get it: burning eyes, burning neck and shoulders, nausea and please God just let me die in my sleep because it's night and I'm on a farm but the moonlight is too bright and it hurts. 

Luckily for me, the good Lord knows when I'm not completely serious.

Unluckily for me, I'm doing my best to type this without looking at my screen too much because after almost fourteen hours of sleep and three pain meds, I'm still feeling like it's there.

So.

I'm a bit angry at myself.

I've been on this ride before. I know the signs. There were things I should have done. For one thing, when I noticed the head-achy feeling starting to throb in my temples, I should have taken something. For another, I should have enlarged the text I was editing so it wouldn't stress my eyes so much. I should have dimmed my screen while I was at it. When I felt my shoulders, neck and jaw clenching, I should bloody well have stopped.

But I was just twenty pages out from being finished, so what harm would it do?

Some days, I'm a bloody fool.

Sigh.



How are you doing? Are you doing Camp NaNo? How's it going?